2015-12-27 Struggling with Doubts

LUKE 24:36-53                                                                                DECEMBER 27, 2015


The dictionary defines the word doubt as to be uncertain, undecided, unsure or suspicious. Doubts are a normal part of our humanity. Things aren’t always what they appear to be. I remember watching an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” where Laura and her friend found what they thought to be gold. They spend days digging up the golden yellow stones only to discover that it was fool’s gold. Most of the followers of Jesus watched him be crucified and then die on the cross. They knew he was dead! So when reports came from the women who found the grave empty and telling a story about angels saying Jesus had risen seemed suspicious at best! Then two disciples came barging in telling this outlandish story of Jesus walking with them on the road to Emmaus seemed fanciful.

Luke records the scene with the two disciples. Luke 24:33-35 (NIV) 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” The other disciples had been skeptical of the story of the resurrection told by the women. Luke 24:11 (NIV) 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”You can picture this scene in your mind with all the disciples talking at the same time.  It must have been like being at a church family dinner.

Luke 24:36-37 (NIV) 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” The apostle John provides a bit more detail. John 20:19 (NIV) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” I bet all conversation stopped at once. I doubt anyone said, “We were just talking about you!”

Just like today there were people who believed in ghosts and spirits. They knew Jesus had died so he must be a ghost. Luke 24:38-39 (NIV) 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Jesus gave them a greeting of comfort, “Peace be with you.”.The marks on his feet and hands would be proof of what Jesus has just told them. And so to remove any future doubts about what they saw Jesus asked them to touch and see that the wounds were real. The apostles still had doubts.

Luke 24:41-43 (NIV) 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.” Jesus asked for something to eat, not because he was hungry but he wanted to provide them with more evidence that he was not a spirit but he was with them in bodily form. The passage in 1 Corinthians 15 talks about the resurrection of Jesus and his glorified body and that we as believers will also be given a new glorified body, like Jesus.

In much the same way as Jesus explained the Old Testament scriptures about the Messiah so too did he now explain the scriptures to the disciples gathered there. Luke 24:44-49 (NIV) 44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  The apostles and the disciples used this instruction from the scriptures in their evangelism efforts to tell the Jewish people about Jesus and how Jesus fulfilled all of the scripture promises concerning the Messiah.

Luke records the essentials of the Gospel message. The verbs in verse 46-47 provide a summary in that Jesus suffered, rose from the dead, and “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations”. Notice that repentance is included along with forgiveness of sins. When there is no repentance there is no salvation.  We must turn away from our sinful ways and come to Christ. As I spoke last week I love the part where “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John 6: 44(ESV) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Unless the Spirit opens our hearts/minds we refuse to see the truth about Jesus and our need of forgiveness.

Jesus reminds them of the mission he has given them to tell the story. Luke 24:48-49 (NIV) 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  Luke is now referring to the promised gift of the Spirit from Joel which will be given at Pentecost. Joel 2:28-29 (NIV) 28 ‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

Luke closes his gospel with the ascension of Jesus. Luke 24:50-51 (NIV) 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” Luke provides more details about the ascension in the book of Acts. This last act of giving a benediction, a blessing, is the basis for our giving a benediction at the close of each worship service. The story does not end with Jesus blessing the disciples but with their worship and joy. Luke 24:52-53 (NIV) 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

We too are witnesses of what Jesus has done for us. We are to share our story of how we turned away from our sinfulness and received forgiveness of our sins.  As we give thanks and praise our LORD we are called to spread the Gospel message to others. We must not let our fears and our doubts hinder us from sharing our story. Jesus is alive and is with his church, those who believe!

Let us pray.